Professor Andrew Easton, of the University of Warwick's School of Life Science, has provided commented upon the newly published report in Science on the genetic influence on Ebola outcome in mice:
"Unlike the mice used in the study", Professor Easton argues, "humans are extensively outbred and have a large variety of genetic combinations, making assessment of the impact of the genes in humans difficult."
Professor Easton's expert comment in full:
“This paper demonstrates that the genes of the host play a role in determining the outcome of Ebola infection in terms of the severity of the disease, at least in mice. This is not surprising as similar observations have been made for many viruses. The paper shows that the precise cells infected and extent of Ebola virus replication is, in part, determined by the host genes. Most of these genes are involved in the very earliest stages of our immune response to infection, again an observation seen with other viruses.
“While this is valuable information the data in the paper cannot be directly extrapolated to the human situation and used as a basis for potential therapy at the moment as, unlike the mice used in the study, humans are extensively outbred and have a large variety of genetic combinations, making assessment of the impact of the genes in humans difficult.
“The paper also does not assess the role of environmental factors that undoubtedly also play a role in the disease process such as the underlying health status of the at-risk population.
“A strongly positive note from the data is that is suggests that it may not be necessary to completely eliminate Ebola virus from the body during infection to ensure that there is no disease, and that reduction of virus growth in the body may offer alleviation from some aspects of the disease – this is heartening as it may suggest that the hurdle that new treatments have to surmount may be lower than initially expected.”
To speak with Professor Easton please contact:
Tom Frew - International Press Officer, University of Warwick;
a dot t dot frew at warwick dot ac dot uk
+44 (0) 2476575910
Professor Andrew Easton;